I just need some quick help.

I’ve been accused of a false dichotomy in asserting: "No. You don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one. "

Why is this or why is this not a false dichotomy. I have my own reasons for objecting to the accusation (obviously), but could use a second or third or fourth opinion.

I think we need more of the conversation…

I guess you’re right. The person defined existence as:

I accused him of creating a “persuasive definition” and then went on to explain what that entails.

His initial response to my explaining what a “persuasive definition” and accusing him of creating one when trying to add certain aspects to the word “existence”:

My response:

He returns with:

Imm,

"No. You don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one. "

For this not to be a false dichotomy there would have to be no reason for using a persuasive definition other than ignorance of its nature, which clearly would not be the case. One quite often in fact uses a persuasive definition to knowingly persuade. This also assumes that there is a neutral use of language, and that when “caught” not using it neutrally, one must necessarily concede, also something untrue.

Interesting is: "“No. You don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one, or you are attempting to deceive me into accepting your position.”

Dunamis

I think I see what you’re getting at. But I’m in trouble, people on other forums have told me that it isn’t a false dichotomy.

However, it doesn’t seem like he is conscious of his mistake - in fact he has argued that he “knows” what a persuasive definition is but can’t “understand” why I’m accusing him of such. As I see it and have argued, he is trying to convince others but isn’t aware that he has made an error, which is why I made the statement: “No. You don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one (excluding your addition for now).” Which implies that he isn’t conceding (or at least isn’t aware of his mistake) because he doesn’t know what a persuasive definition is.

Now, in using your additions, another problem is presented:

“No. You don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one, or you are attempting to deceive me into accepting your position.”

Although this is a dichotomy, is it actually a [false] one? It would seem, even with your addition, that this isn’t the case

1 – If he does know what a persuasive definition is, and continues to press his definition of “existence”, then he is actively trying to deceive others, including me into accepting his position.

2 – If he doesn’t know what a persuasive definition is, then there is no referent for which he can, first acknowledge his own definition of “existence” as persuasive and then concede it.

Perhaps I am missing some other alternatives, but I don’t see them, particularly the ones that he’s asserted, as valid with respect to knowledge of a concept. And for note, I have provided two explanations of what a persuasive definition is in prior posts. One from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persuasive_definition, and the other from http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/swartz/definitions.htm.

Without conscious effort, one cannot know that a persuasive definition is deceptive and at the same time [not] know that you’re creating one. Only in pure ignorance, which is what I’ve argued, can you profess to know what a persuasive definition is and at the same time not see your mistake.

Imm,

in fact he has argued that he “knows” what a persuasive definition is but can’t “understand” why I’m accusing him of such.

I think part of the problem is with what a “persuasive definition” is, and if a lexical - that is neutral to all contexts - defintion actually does exist. A definition is simply something that people agree upon, nothing more. When you disagree with someone’s definition, automatically this places that definition in the potential category of “persuasive”, if you can assume the intention. Philosophy is varying acts of redescription (or redefinition) and the attempts to persuade others of the efficacy and importance of that redescription. This is pretty much how it works.

Dunamis

I suppose the dichotomy you have in mind is, Either you understand what a persuasive definition is, or you would concede you are using one.

If is false because it excludes the alternative that you do understand what a persuasive definition is, and you believe that you are not using one (so you don’t concede you are using one).

A dichotomy is of the form, Either A or B. It is a false dichotomy when it assumes, that A and B are the only alternatives, and there is no third alternative,

Take a plainer example. Someone says, A is either a conservative or a liberal.
But there is a third alternative. A may be an Independent. And a fourth alternative. A may be a Communist.

I feel you. But he already explained that he understood what a persuasive definition is. So that option is already thrown into the air. He continued, however, by stating that he doesn’t know how I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s made one. So, if he knows what a persuasive definition is, then he should be able to acknowledge when one has been created. On the other hand, since he hasn’t conceded that his definition of existence is a persuasive one, it shows me that he doesn’t know what a persuasive definition is.

Look, the issue is not that of what a persuasive definition is. The issue concern the notion of a false dichotomy.

A dichotomy (in the relevant sense) is just an alternation or an “or” statement of the form, either X or Y with the implication that either X or Y must be true, but not both.

It is a false dichotomy when:

  1. Both X and Y are true, or, 2. both X and Y are false.

For instance, suppose someone says, Joe is either your mailman or your brother implying he is not both. But, of course, Joe may be your mailman and your brother. So that is a false dichotomy, since X and Y may both be true.
And, for instance, someone says, today is either Monday or Tuesday. Clearly, today might be neither Monday or Tuesday. I might be Thursday. So, if there is a third alternative, Z, besides X or Y, then X or Y is a false dichotomy.

The question is whether the stated example presents a false dichotomy in either of the two ways I deliniated above.

The dichotomy is: either you don’t understand what a persuasive definition is or else you would have conceded that you were using one.

So, can you reply in way #1, both alternatives are true. Thus, “I both understand what a persuasive definition is, and I concede that I was using one.” I do not suppose you want to do that.

Way #2: Both alternatives are false, and there is some third alternative: Thus, “I don’t understand what a persuasive definition is, and I do not concede I was using one.” I don’t see how you could say this either.

Therefore, I conclude, there is no false dichotomy going on.

  1. Both

You’ve lost a negation in your first statement: the person in question is asserting way #2, which is both that they understand what a persuasive definition is and that they have not conceded to using one. The reason they do not concede is because they do not believe that they have used one.

According to Wikipedia, “A persuasive definition is a type of definition in which a term is defined in such a way as to be an argument for a particular position (as opposed to a lexical definition, which aims to be neutral to all usages).” It seems to me that the person in question is asserting that their initial definition aims to be “neutral to all usages.”

Also, looking at the quote provided by ImmanuelAy, it’s not clear to me what portion is “definition”, and what is commentary on the definition; this may be the source of disagreement.

So my view is that the ImmanuelAy did create a false dichotomy, but that making this accusation did not further the discussion. Instead, it would have been more useful to ask, “Which part of my definition do you think is not neutral?” This could have led to a common understanding of what was definition and what was commentary. On the other hand, the accusation of “persuasive definition” also did not further the discussion. Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it an argument than a discussion.

Leathon

The person was using the definition to compare it to “transcendence” in order to prove the logical impossibility of God - in a Christian forum. However, his definition seems to assume (and assert) automatically that the only things which are worth considering as existent are specific physical objects, by asserting (and I paraphrase), “things that exist must meet certain criteria: linear time constraints and have effect”.

His definition of “existence” inherently contradicts the Christian conception of God and that really doesn’t work in a Theological debate. It isn’t neutral, as the rhetoric he uses seems to have an intrinsic bias for Atheistic “disbeliefs”, or is stated implicitly from a materialistic perspective.

In my opinion, he used the definition as a means to simply justify his Atheism as opposed to actually trying to argue what makes the Christian God logically impossible, and further, tried to manipulate the way people approached the argument in a “negative way” (for lack of a better idea).

Thank you. That does clarify the context somewhat. I am at a bit of a disadvantage here, because I am an atheist and agree with his definitions. However, I also agree with you that they would not be an accepted definition within such a forum.

In your initial quote, I regarded the first three paragraphs as definition, and the last two as commentary. I think that your objection is to the implication in the third paragraph that things which have independent existence necessarily have “sense contents”; and I agree that this is something to take issue with.

As an aside, there are also other points for discussion. The implication given is that something of “dependent existence” has no discernable effect; but our own sense of justice (to use but one example) has clearly-visible effects on our behaviour quite often.

So I agree that you have a genuine grievance. But this does not change the answer to your original question: while his definition may or may not have been a persuasive definition (which depends on his intent and his ability to see another’s viewpoint), your response was a false dichotomy because it failed to take into account the possibility that his definition was honestly meant, if a little naive.

Leathon

Thanks for the help, all of you.